Why nobody talks about the pressure to be the ‘ideal woman’ in the South

Where sex is shunned in public and practiced terribly in private

Ah, the Bible belt. Where sorority girls claim to stick to their strict Christian and Catholic backgrounds, all while slut shaming their peers and “secretly” getting into their own promiscuous activities.

The University of South Carolina is a perfect example of this culture, where sex is shunned in public and practiced terribly in private. Frat boys focus on their “body count” over quality sex, and the girls I speak to talk about how they’ve felt obliged to sleep with a guy because he “paid for their cab home.”

The male students at USC are brought up in a culture where girls that sleep around are plentiful, girls that do not are prudes, and any girl looking for something more than a casual hookup is crazy and clingy. Just the term “body count” makes me cringe. It allots no space for the idea that sex is meant to be pleasurable, and instead focuses solely on the act as a finish line.

I’ve spoken to several female students about the sex culture here at USC, and at first I was surprised by the lack of clarity surrounding it. According to the 2016 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, USC rates #61 out of 140 universities in sex education. Pair this with South Carolina having one of the worst public school systems in the country and religion’s notorious reputation for a dismissal of sex conversations and we have the atmosphere at USC: Students with hormones pumping through their veins, no sense of self-control, and zero supervision to keep them from making terrible mistakes.

As reported by Laura FitzPatrick in her piece “Some women will keep having sex even if it hurts,” 75 percent of women will continue through the pain in an attempt to identify with the standard of being an “ideal women.” What I find most intriguing about the mentality around the “ideal women” is how highly propagated it is in southern culture. Many southern young women are still being sent off to college to obtain their “MRS degree,” while continuing to be told to dress a certain way.


I, personally, have faced sexist discrimination in job interviews and in my daily activities around the city of Columbia. Just recently I was rejected from a job position because I was cited as “too aggressive and intense.” I did not embody what the employers felt were “female characteristics.” Never have I been told that I project masculine energy until I moved to the South. My lack of desire for one night stands and inarticulate frat boys has caused me more grief than I ever imaged. I’m not striving to be the ideal women in the South, and therefore I’m considered an outcast.

In the South you either put out, or you’re put out. Girls are seen as objects, providers of sexual pleasure for boys with complete disregard to their feelings (not to mention misunderstanding of the anatomy of the female body.) The demise of true intimacy or stable relationships is felt deeply on the USC campus. While the long term effects have yet to be felt in our adult lives, I fear for the future of my female peers. The continued strive towards this elusive ideal of what a female should be, do and say is a concept that does not belong in the modern work force, yet is what is continually practiced and perpetuated on our campus.

University of South Carolina